Researchers develop the first AI-based method for dating archeological remains
An international research team led by Lund University in Sweden has developed an AI-based method that can accurately date up to ten-thousand year-old human remains by analysing DNA. The scientists analysed approximately 5,000 human remains with the median accuracy from 259 to 428 years.
AI taught to date human remains
Accurate dating is crucial when mapping how people migrated during world history.
It is known that the standard is radiocarbon dating that was developed in the 1950s. It is a method based on the ratio between two different carbon isotopes, has revolutionised archaeology. But the technology is not always accurate making it complicated to map ancient people, how they moved and how they are related.
In a new study published in Cell Reports Methods, the research team has developed a dating method that could be of huge interest to archaeologists and paleogenomicists.
Information about the period encoded in the genetic material
Eran Elhaik, a researcher in molecular cell biology at Lund University who earlier developed a version of the Turkic origins of Central European Jews and talked about the first test that allowed comparing a modern human’s DNA with the remains of ancient people. Dr Elhaik says about the new method of dating the remains: “Unreliable dating is a major problem, resulting in vague and contradictory results. Our method uses artificial intelligence to date genomes via their DNA with great accuracy.”
So the method is called Temporal Population Structure (TPS) and can be used to date genomes that are up to 10,000 years old. Approximately 5,000 human remains analysed by the research team in the study — from the Late Mesolithic period (10,000–8,000 BC) to modern times. All of the studied samples could be dated with a rarely seen accuracy.
“We show that information about the period in which people lived is encoded in the genetic material. By figuring out how to interpret it and position it in time, we managed to date it with the help of AI”, says Eran Elhaik.
Scientists can trace the origins of ancient people
TPS is not expected to eliminate radiocarbon dating, the researchers say, but rather see the method as an additional tool in the paleogeographic toolbox. They say the method can be used when there is uncertainty regarding a radiocarbon dating result. One example is the famous human skull from Zlatý kůň in today's Czech Republic, which could be anywhere between 15,000 and 34,000 years old.
“Radiocarbon dating can be very unstable and is affected by the quality of the material being examined. Our method is based on DNA, which makes it very solid. Now we can seriously begin to trace the origins of ancient people and map their migration routes”, concludes Eran Elhaik.